*According to Pat Rusin and her team of researchers at the University of Arizona, the toilet seat is actually one of the least bacteria-laden surfaces in the home. Study results were published in a June issue of New Scientist magazine; three times as many bacteria were found on chopping boards and one million times more on dishcloths.
*A May San Jose Mercury News story reported on the new fascination among Japanese youth with rap and hip-hop music and their emulation of an African-American lifestyle; kids are curling their hair, darkening their skin, and drinking new Dunk beer, which is popular because consumers associate it with basketball. And in June members of a New York City workshop of Japanese students studying in the United States performed gospel music at Harlem's Memorial Baptist Church, to enthusiastic applause. Said the former Tokyo jazz-club owner who started the workshops with the church's cooperation: "Black culture is very important in Japan."
*The eternal flame under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a sacred memorial to the nation's war dead, was briefly extinguished June 30 when two inebriated tourists from Mexico urinated on it. French officials and Mexico's ambassador to France lit it again the next day in a joint ceremony. The perpetrators were detained briefly.
Least Competent Pyros
*In separate incidents in a three-week period in April and May, three people attempted to set fire to their spouses, yet botched the jobs and actually lit themselves up: Solonia Gene, age 25, Des Moines (intended to punish her husband for staying out all night); a Durham, North Carolina, man (just planned to scare his wife after a fight); and Tarance Love, age 37, St. Louis (unspecified domestic fight).
Rumbles in the Reading Room
*A 34-year-old woman was hospitalized in Nashville in May after a toilet at the Nashville Arena caught fire when she flushed it, possibly because of the fireworks that were being used by the World Wrestling Federation. A 29-year-old man was hospitalized in St. Paul in June when his bathroom exploded, probably because burning incense ignited the gasoline he was using to clean his hands. And a 32-year-old camper was killed when a campsite toilet exploded near Montabaur, Germany, in April, probably caused by gas leaking from a septic tank.
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Government Food Policies
*In May the British government's Broadcasting Standards Committee criticized the program TV Dinners because of a February episode that featured a woman preparing a dish with her just-born daughter's placenta. The mother, father, and twenty guests sampled the dish on camera. And in June the U.S. Department of Agriculture ruled that salsa qualifies as a required vegetable in government-reimbursed school meals.
Least Competent Criminals
*Joseph L. Cantey, age 22, was arrested in Lindenwold, New Jersey, in May on several charges. According to police, he made a clean escape after stealing a cellphone but returned to the victim's home on May 10 to get him to reactivate the phone service. Police soon spotted Cantey; in the ensuing chase he dropped fifteen bags of crack cocaine and eventually led police to his brother and two other men, who were charged with possession of even more drugs.
-- By Chuck Shepherd